If you read the news, then you might think that there is no place for faith in society. We hear of nurses being suspended for offering to pray for their patients; teachers who can’t speak of their own faith in class; and even of air cabin crew who are dismissed for wearing religious symbols.
But this is nothing new.
At the Palatine Hill Museum in Rome, you’ll find an ancient graffiti sketch of an early Christian called Alexamenos, worshipping Jesus. The picture shows Jesus as half man / half donkey hanging on a cross and the inscription below mockingly reads “Alexamenos worships [his] God.”
No one is quite sure exactly how old the artwork is, but archeologists estimate it dates back to between the 1st and 3rd Century AD – so sometime in the centuries after Paul’s travels to Rome. What is does provide is an insight into the skepticism those early Christians faced.
It’s a reminder that opposition to the gospel is nothing new. Much of the ancient world looked on in ridicule at the death of Jesus upon a dirty piece of wood. In many ways the challenges Paul faced are the same as those we face today – and, like Paul, we need to stand up and be confident in our faith. As Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”
Jesus is so much more than a USP!
Here at Cinnamon, we are motivated by Jesus to serve people of all faiths and those of none. Our focus is on community transformation – but when working through churches Jesus naturally becomes part of the conversations. We take seriously the words in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Being up-front about our Christian distinctiveness and identity is important – and we’ve actually found that it’s something that our partners actively celebrate. One of our statutory partners recently commented that, “It’s not just a project when churches engage, they bring a sustainable sense of community.”
So let’s be proud of who we are in Christ, and of the opportunities He gives us to serve our communities.